Canada’s oldest continuously-serving infantry regiment
The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Celebrates its 150th Birthday
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Anyone passing by Toronto City Hall at 11:30 am on Monday, April 26, will see something rarely seen anywhere. It will be the flag of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, flying from the city’s flagpole.
In honour of the regiment’s 150th birthday that day – officially proclaimed as “The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Day in Toronto” – LCol John Fotheringham CD, the Commanding Officer, accompanied by Mayor David Miller and members of the regiment, will raise the flag.
“What is unusual about this,” LCol Fotheringham says, “is that, traditionally, rifle regiments don’t carry flags on parade, even on ceremonial occasions. Displaying them is generally reserved for special events such as this.”
The tradition goes back many years, to the days when regiments on the field of battle used their flags, which carried their battle honours, as rallying points for their troops. This provided their enemies with excellent targets. Rifle regiments preferred to place their battle honours on their drums, and still do.
Named the 2nd Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada on its founding in 1860, the regiment became The Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto in 1863 and The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada in 1882. It is now Canada’s oldest continuously-serving infantry regiment.
The regiment’s birthday week will begin on Monday, April 19, in Victoria, BC. The original plan was to have their Colonel-in-Chief for the past 50 years, HRH Princess Alexandra, KG, GCVO, begin a week-long visit to Canada there. She would have joined The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada National Association members in ceremonies marking the presence of the regiment’s two regular force battalions which were stationed there after World War Two.
However the situation in Europe with the fallout from the Icelandic volcano has caused at least this part of her trip to be cancelled. MGen Herb Pitts MC, CD, President of the National Association, said that, “We are greatly disappointed, of course, but all events will proceed as planned.”
The royal party is hopeful they will be able to fly to Calgary to be present for the celebrations there on Thursday, April 22. The regiment’s 1st and 2nd regurlar force battalions were also stationed there for a number of years.
All going well, beginning on April 24, Princess Alexandra will visit the Regimental Museum in Casa Loma in Toronto, and will be guest of honour at a dinner/dance hosted by the Toronto Branch of the National Association.
On Sunday, April 25 she will attend a service of worship at St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Bloor St., in the presence of her regiment, its cadet corps and association members. Over 200 or more will be in the parade, marching to the church to attend the service.
This will be the final visit to her regiment by Princess Alexandra. She has served as Colonel-in-Chief for 50 years, since 1960, when she was named as successor to Her Majesty Queen Mary, who had served from 1928 until her death in 1953.
As a tribute to their outgoing Colonel-in-Chief, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Association has established an educational bursary program in her name, which will provide financial support to serving regimental personnel and their children.
The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada has a long and storied history. The regiment first saw action 1866, at Ridgeway, ON, where nine members were killed or died of wounds fighting Fenian raiders from New York. Subsequently the regiment sent its troops to the Boer War, two world wars and the Korean War.
Currently, there are more than 20 troops either deployed in Afghanistan or preparing to leave for six months service in the Canadian military’s battle group there. Over 40 others from The Queen’s Own have already served in Kandahar Province.
Three members of the regiment have been awarded medals for their actions there. MCpl Stephen Thomas of Toronto received the Bravery Medal and MCpl Adam de Bartok, of Toronto, and MCpl Rick Kurelo, Oshawa, were both awarded Sacrifice Medals.